Growing up, you were always told to follow your dreams. That you could become anything you wanted. But, as we grew older, more and more people started saying something very different. Suddenly we were told that, while artistic talent was admirable, it was almost impossible to get a career as an artist, that most artists ended up out on the streets with nothing to show for it. We were told to avoid majors like English, because they were "soft," and if you didn't end up a big writer, there wasn't anything you could do with it. And then, while you had all of this being screamed in your ear, suddenly you had to apply for colleges, choose a major, and choose a career.
I'm here to tell you that all of that advice was sh*t. All of that "play it safe," do something that is "guaranteed," or (and this was my least favorite) "actually contributed to society." It's all a big fat lie, told by people who were too scared to go for it in the first place.
So, keeping that in mind, I'm here to tell you how to actually choose a major/career:
Step 1: Know yourself.
This sounds easy, but we all know it's not. Knowing yourself can mean a lot of things, but, in this case, it’s a bit more specific. Think back to your childhood summers…even the last few summers. Or the last few weeks. Chances are there was some silly thing you always told people you would be. Or something you always tried to be.
For me, my dream was to be a writer. Now, of course I wanted other things, like to be a ballerina. I also wanted to be an artist, a forensic anthropologist, etc., but in the end, I always came back to being a writer. I spent my summers starting books I would never finish. I would set up scenes made of block and dolls, and then write a story about them. I would dream up plots on road trips, and act out those amazing adventures with my friends. This was my passion.
So, try to think if you ever had something that always came back. Something you love doing, whether it's learning about microbes, or coding, or dancing, or filming. That thing that has stuck with you: that is your passion.
Step 2: Be open to change.
This is one a lot of people don't get told much about, but most people who have been in college understand completely. It is 100% normal to change your major at some point in your first (or even your last) years in college. Same goes for non-collegiate careers.
Sometimes it takes some pushing, and a lot of mistakes, for us to remember where our passion lies. You might think your dream is to be an engineer, and then wake up one day realizing that law is your one true love. It happens. And, when it happens, chances are you'll see that the signs were there all along.
This, I've found, is both the hardest and easiest thing to do. You get to this point where you know what you want, and where your path seems clear. But, then you start second guessing. What if I fail boot camp? What if I can't pass the bar exam? What if physics classes are just too hard?
This is the most crucial part of this process. You have two choices here. You can change your plan, or you can continue doing what you were — pursuing a career that seems safe. Something you like, something that makes money, etc., and, for some people, that first thing is already their passion. This might be the case for you. You may truly know what you want to do. And that's great! Do it! But maybe that's not you. Maybe you have to decide if you should pursue that certain something. Is it worth the hard work, the tears, the late nights, the low pay, the ladder climbing...Is it worth it?
It was for me. I took a chance and submitted a tester article to a company in the hopes of maybe, just maybe, getting on as a paid freelance writer. It took a long time to hear back, but in the end I got that job. In fact, that is why I’m writing this right now.
I took that leap of faith, and gave in to my true dream! I’m finally pursuing that je ne sais quoi that followed me my entire life.
So, is it worth it? Honestly, I believe in my heart that the answer is yes.
So, take a moment. Today, tomorrow, next week — whenever — to sit down and ask yourself these three questions:
1. Who do I want to be?
Who do you feel you are? When you imagine yourself at maximum success, how did you get there? What feats did you accomplish?
2. What are my backups?
Sometimes, things just don't go as planned. I would love to be a published novel writer, but I'd also be fine with staying freelance or becoming an editor. These things all still line up with my passion. What lines up with yours?
3. What pushes me?
Pursuing your true passion is very difficult. Life gets in the way. Stress gets in the way. Family, friends, diets, relationships, homework, side jobs... Everything gets in the way. So what doesn't? What is the thing that pushes you past those obstacles? Your love for the subject? Your dreams of the future? Words your mother spoke to you as a child? Find something that makes you believe you can do this, and keep that something close at hand for when a commitment emergency arises, because it will.
Don't worry if these questions don't lead you anywhere other than where you are. You might already be there. But, if you ever find yourself doubting, wondering if you made the right decision, ask yourself these questions again. Who knows, you might learn something new about yourself.